Post-War Blues and R&B

The Mills Brothers were a highly influential and enduring American vocal group that achieved popularity from the 1930s through the mid-20th century. Known for their tight harmonies, innovative vocal techniques, and wide-ranging repertoire, the Mills Brothers were trailblazers in the world of vocal harmony. Here are some key points about The Mills Brothers:

  1. Formation: The Mills Brothers originated in Piqua, Ohio, in the early 1920s. The original members were four brothers: John Jr., Herbert, Harry, and Donald Mills. They initially performed as a gospel quartet.
  2. Harmonic Style: The Mills Brothers' signature style involved close, intricate harmonies that often mimicked musical instruments, such as trumpet or trombone sounds. They became known for their pioneering vocal imitation of instruments, which helped set them apart from other vocal groups.
  3. Radio Success: The Mills Brothers gained early popularity through radio broadcasts and live performances. They were especially well-received on national radio programs like the "Rudy Vallee Show."
  4. Hits and Success: The Mills Brothers recorded a series of hits during their career, including "Paper Doll," "Glow-Worm," "Till Then," and "You're Nobody till Somebody Loves You." "Paper Doll" in particular was a massive success and sold millions of copies.
  5. Crossing Racial Barriers: The Mills Brothers were one of the first African American groups to achieve widespread success with both black and white audiences. They transcended racial barriers and became beloved by a diverse range of listeners.
  6. Influence on Vocal Groups: The Mills Brothers were a major influence on subsequent vocal groups, including doo-wop and barbershop quartets. Their harmonious sound and innovative vocal techniques set a standard for vocal harmony groups that followed.
  7. Techniques and Innovation: The group's ability to mimic musical instruments and create innovative vocal effects made them pioneers in vocal performance. They used their voices to simulate a trumpet, saxophone, and other instruments, expanding the possibilities of vocal harmony.
  8. Later Years: The Mills Brothers continued to perform and record well into the 20th century, adapting to changing musical trends. They also ventured into television and film, making appearances on variety shows and in movies.
  9. Members and Changes: Over the years, the group experienced some changes in membership. The original members were eventually replaced by family members and other singers, but the group's commitment to harmonious singing and innovation remained consistent.
  10. Legacy: The Mills Brothers' enduring legacy as pioneers of vocal harmony and their contributions to American music are celebrated to this day. Their recordings continue to be appreciated by music enthusiasts and are regarded as classics of the vocal harmony genre.

The Mills Brothers' timeless harmonies and innovative vocal techniques have left an indelible mark on the history of American popular music. They are remembered as one of the most influential vocal groups of their era, inspiring generations of singers and musicians.